Archive for November, 2011

I was in the train, going to Berlin. There was a lot going wrong with the trains, and I couldn’t even get to the train station in the Netherlands from which my train to Berlin was leaving.

Because I have had years of training to not get annoyed at train delays, I just sat there, and figured out step by step what the best thing to do was, once I got in a position to make a decision about the next step.

My phone rang. It was my mom. When I told her I couldn’t get to Amersfoort, so I could very well miss my train to Berlin, she said: “What if you don’t catch your train? What time will you be in Utrecht? How long will it take you to get to Amersfoort? Is there another train you can catch? When will you catch a train to Berlin?

I told her I didn’t know the answers. That’s when I came up with this definition.

Worrying is obsessing over questions that you don’t have an answer to.

Worrying gives you a false sense of certainty. We feel, by asking these questions over and over again, that we are doing something to get closer to the answers, where really, it doesn’t lead us anywhere.

I learned to stop asking these questions. Whenever these questions pop up, I tend to shift my attention elsewhere, so I don’t get caught up in them. Or maybe, I do ask these questions, but I don’t need to answer them anymore. I don’t know is as good an answer as any.

I’d rather live with uncertainty and without worry, than with worry and a false sense of certainty.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t prepare. As a good friend of me pointed out: Worry before you go, and don’t when you’re on your way.

Life is full of uncertainties. We should celebrate them. If we stop asking questions that don’t have an answer, and train ourselves better in not worrying, we can start enjoying the adventure uncertainty brings. Without it, things will just be plain boring.


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Whenever you say something, you give it power.

Of course I already knew you shouldn’t use the word should and shouldn’t. But it wasn’t until I realized that there were 4 situations in which this applies, and what to do instead of saying should and shouldn’t, that I fully realized why.

Whenever you are using the words ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’, you are always referring to the future. I should go to bed. I shouldn’t call him an asshole all the time. Both examples of things in the future.

Whenever you say ‘should have’ or ‘shouldn’t have’, this inevitably refers to some event in the past. I should have told him that. I shouldn’t have shouted at him. Things that happened, or didn’t happen, in the past.

Now the thing is, as Eckhart Tolle repeatedly points out, only the NOW is free from grieve. I will give you four examples, starting with the one that was most felt by me not so long ago.

Shouldn’t have

I have a scar on my forehead. A couple of months ago, I fell on a waterfall and it resulted in a hole in my head. I was feeling pretty down because of it and because I didn’t feel ‘whole’ anymore. I would have to live with this scar forever. Part of me couldn’t care less. Part of me cared enough to be (secretly) grieving.

I remember there was a distinct point in time when I could turn this feeling around. It was when I realized that I was thinking the same thing all the time: “This shouldn’t have happened”. That had been exactly what I was thinking. That it shouldn’t have happened. Well, guess what? It DID. Nothing I would do or change or think would change that. It had happened. In the world I lived in right now, there was only one reality, and in that reality, it had happened. Whether it should have happened or not was not relevant. When I realized that, the grieving stopped and I could go on. Stop denying reality. Instead, work with it and act, or stop regretting something happened.

Should have

Only yesterday, I caught myself thinking: “I should have bought that T-shirt”. The fact is, I didn’t. I forgot all about it. I even forgot that I had had that wish. So at that time, it certainly wasn’t as important as I made it to be right now, otherwise I would’ve remembered. Nothing I can do about it anymore now, so better stop regretting and get on with my life (or act and go back and buy the damn t-shirt).


I should really call up my mom. This is such a silly statement. It shows you don’t really want to call up your mom. It shows that you don’t feel like calling up your mom but that you think you are supposed to call up your mom. Because your preferred reality is different from other people’s reality, or reality as you envision it to be, you’re grieving because it feels like you’re not getting what you want. For the grieving to stop, you have to do just one thing: decide what reality will be like. This sentence is much purer in either one of the following two forms: I will call my mom, I won’t call my mom. Act on it or stop whining, and the grieving will stop.


I shouldn’t eat that cookie. This sentence implies that you probably will. Saying it can be the first stop of actually not giving in. But a stronger way to put it would be: I am not going to eat that cookie. Work towards your preferred reality. The real on, not the one you think you want.

Using the words should and shouldn’t will make you stay in limbo forever. If you want clarity of thought, stop using them and start deciding and making yourself promises. Life will get much simpler if you do.

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